*Brain fog is not recognised as a clinical diagnosis because it is subjective and difficult to test for
*Brain fog can also affect people who have not suffered a brain injury
*There are many different causes of brain fog
*There are many things you can do to help yourself
In general, people who don’t have a brain injury are talking about days when they don’t seem to have any mental clarity at all and are unable to focus on what they are doing. Other people use the term more loosely and will say, for example, that they have ‘brain fog’ because they were distracted, in a rush, tired, under pressure, or feeling stressed, and forgot where they put their car keys, but otherwise have a brain that functions perfectly normally.
In terms of brain injury, ‘brain fog’ really refers more to how the brain itself feels, rather than to the symptoms or noticeable effects. In this regard, it describes the feeling that the brain itself feels tired or that the brain itself is lacking in energy rather than being an indication of how a person feels overall. It can bring people the sensation that the physical brain has dissolved into a thick hazy cloud.
Brain fog can intensify problems with mental clarity, memory, concentration, and maintaining focus.
It is interesting to note that these feelings are often quite different from struggling with slowed processing following a brain injury. ‘Slowed processing‘ may be noticed, for example, when we are trying to understand incoming information – but while this is happening, there is not always a note of the brain ‘itself’ feeling lethargic. The same applies to those times when there is difficulty concentrating or when people feel frustrated. In these cases, when you remove the source of frustration, you also remove feelings of confusion, loss of focus, and so on, and people notice that they are back to their post-injury ‘normal.’
On the other hand, brain fog can also exacerbate the challenges of dealing with slowed processing and other brain injury outcomes, so remaining flexible and observant is crucial to gaining insight and understanding.
It doesn’t matter at all how the term ‘brain fog’ is generally used; what matters is what it is that causes the brain to feel as though it is an iceberg lost on the equator.
For people living with brain injury, the leading cause of brain fog is the biochemical cascade. Left unaddressed brain fog and many other symptoms can persist for years. When it comes to beating brain fog, one food supplement beats them all, medicinal black seed oil, or ‘nigella stavia.’
Scientifically proven to address the biochemical outcomes of brain injury such as mitochondrial dysfunction (production of energy), and the harmful effects of inflammation, oxidative stress and more, specific strains of the seed and oil have been studied in over 800 research papers. While many brain injury-related articles stress management techniques such as napping and ‘pacing,’ directly dealing with the major causes of brain fog helps people to get their lives back.
Inflammatory effects can also come from stress hormones, so periods of brain fog may be prolonged, or worsen when we are going through a stressful period. Chronic stress can increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system, and trigger depression or turn on a genetic tendency to be pessimistic. It can also cause mental fatigue and hormonal changes. When your brain is exhausted, it becomes harder to think, reason, and focus. Magnesium and other important micronutrients can be depleted, creating a vicious circle that often results in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Interestingly magnesium deficiency can also result in problems with memory, insomnia, confusion, irritability, fatigue and learning abilities.
Oxidative stress results from the biochemical cascade that follows a brain injury and contributes to brain fog. Free radicals can cause harm in the body and can damage our cells, proteins and our DNA when they outnumber the number of antioxidants in the body. Other than brain fog, oxidative stress also causes fatigue and headaches, and surprisingly, may contribute to noise sensitivity as well as other common symptoms of brain injury.
A lack of sleep can contribute to and exacerbate or worsen brain fog. Often caused by a decrease in vitamin D reserves, sleep issues following a brain injury are very typical and add to the prolongment of symptoms and difficulties with rehabilitation. Many people also struggle with B12 deficiency linked to low levels of vitamin D and poor sleep. As vitamin D levels improve, there is a greater need for B12 and reserves can be quickly depleted. B12 deficiency can cause brain fog even when D levels are normal.
Many people will never have suffered from food intolerances prior to their injury and may think that they still don’t. However, because it is common for people not to consider the actual cause of their brain fog because they assume that it is symptomatic of their brain injury, they also often don’t realise that there are lots of things they can do themselves to improve it.
For most people, the main food protein that creates neurological inflammation, and ‘brain fog,’ is gluten. Other people may notice that eating dairy products, foods containing MSG or aspartame makes things worse, and another culprit can be meat, as this causes toxic metals to leave tissue storage sites and to enter the bloodstream causing neurological symptoms.
The side effects of medications can also cause the brain to become foggy.
Gut flora imbalances, or bowel toxicity, can also contribute to brain fog and other mental or neurological symptoms.
Always talk to your doctor as blood and other tests may indicate the cause. Let your doctor know about as many of the symptoms you have as possible and keep a food journal for a week or two to take with you.
Although doctors don’t tend to think of food as medicine, the best source of nutrients always comes from what you eat or supplements you consume. Colourful fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids and help combat oxidative stress and the causes of brain fog, as well as many other symptoms of brain injury. Leafy dark greens such as spinach and kale are rich in magnesium and can help alleviate fatigue along with other symptoms. Magnesium supplements are ‘chelated’ and therefore, difficult to absorb.
Knowing the causes of our brain injury outcomes empowers us to make the changes we need.
Kresser Institute – Is gluten killing your brain
Dr Lawrence Wilson – Brain Fog
Leopold D. Galland MD – Why stress can cause magnesium deficiency
NCBI – A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb